One of Australia’s leading service providers for defence personnel and their families visited Wagga this week to find out what support the city’s military community needed, and the answer was not priority boarding.
Soldier On visited the city for its monthly check-in on Tuesday, just days after Virgin Australia announced its plans to let veterans board flights before other customers.
Local programs officer Natarsha Knights-Lewis, who represented Solider On in Wagga this week, said Virgin did come up in a lot of her conversations with servicepeople, all of whom had other concerns.
“While it’s great for organisations to recognise the serve of our men and women, for our community, the focus is more on their needing support for mental health, education, and employment,” Ms Knights-Lewis said.
Local RAAF corporal Andrew Summers, who has served in the military for 22 years, said those three priorities were spot on.
“I’m looking at discharging and leaving the services myself, not right now, but it’s in my head-space that I might leave soon, and it’s frightening me,” Corporal Summers said.
“We’re such a big family, there’s a sense of brother and sisterhood, and we depend on each other so much, so when I think of leaving I think ‘Am I leaving my family’?”
Corporal Summers said practically all of his military mates had experienced the same fears over leaving, which is why post-service employment pathways needed to become a top priority rather than shows of recognition.
“The big problem when you leave is you feel like you have no sense of purpose anymore – during your defence career, they build you up so much in the mindset that your nation is depending on you to protect them,” he said.
“You become so institutionalised and you wonder ‘Am I going to be able to get a job’ and ‘Who’s going to employ me’ and ‘Who’s going to support my family when I leave’?”
For veterans, servicepeople, and defence families looking for support, Soldier On visits Wagga each and every month to engage with the local community.
You can reach out to contact them on 6021 1341.